“The Grown-Up” Raises the Curtain on Blue Barn’s New Home

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The BLUEBARN Theatre is proud to present the regional premiere of The Grown-Up by Jordan Harrison. This will be the inaugural production in the BLUEBARN’s new home at 1106 S. 10th Street.

BLUEBARN Producing Artistic Director Susan Clement-Toberer directs, with set design by Martin Scott Marchitto, lighting design by Carol Wisner, costume design by Jill Anderson, sound design by Martin Magnuson, and properties design by Amy Reiner.

Shows run Sept 24-Oct 18; Thursday-Saturday at 7:30 p.m., Sunday October 4th, 11th, and 18th at 6 p.m. Single tickets for The Grown-Up are $30 for adults; and $25 for students, seniors 65+, TAG members, and groups of 10 or more.

About The Grown-Up

The Grown-Up is BLUEBARN’s Humana Festival Pick and tells the story of Kai, a ten-year-old boy at his grandfather’s knee listening to a story of a magic doorknob. Jump 15 years and he is a young television writer. Jump in time again, and he and his future husband attend their wedding reception. Has Kai run into powerful magic or has he just realized the breakneck speed of an ordinary life and what he might have missed? A funny and honest tale about living in the moment.

About the playwright, Jordan Harrison

Jordan Harrison’s play, Marjorie Prime (2015 Pulitzer Prize finalist), had its world premiere at the Mark Taper Forum and will have its New York premiere this fall at Playwrights Horizons. Harrison’s Humana Festival premieres include Maple and Vine, The Grown-Up, Act a Lady, Kid-Simple, and Fit for Feet. His other plays include Doris to Darlene (Playwrights Horizons), Amazons and their Men(Clubbed Thumb), Finn in the Underworld (Berkeley Repertory Theatre), Futura (Portland Center Stage), and The Museum Play. His children’s musical, The Flea and the Professor, commissioned and produced by the Arden Theatre, won the Barrymore Award for Best Production. Harrison is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and is a graduate of the Brown University M.F.A. program, Harrison is an alumnus of New Dramatists. Harrison currently writes for the Netflix original series, Orange is the New Black.

About the stars of The Grown-Up

The Grown-Up will highlight some of Omaha’ brightest talent including BLUEBARN founding member and award-winning actor Nils Haaland (Our Town, 33 Variations, BLUEBARN Theatre.) Veteran actor Jerry Longe (American Buffalo, Red, BLUEBARN Theatre) also joins the cast. Longe is best known for his perennial performance as Scrooge in the Omaha Playhouse’s A Christmas Carol. Rounding out the cast are Megan Friend (Bad Jews, BLUEBARN Theatre), Nick Albrecht (Spamalot, Omaha Community Playhouse), Matt Karasek (Standing on Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays, BLUEBARN Theatre), and Katie Otten in her BLUEBARN debut.

ABOUT THE BLUEBARN THEATRE

The BLUEBARN Theatre has been bringing professionally-produced plays to area audiences since its inception, BLUEBARN has produced over 100 plays and has established itself as Omaha’s professional contemporary theatre company. Striving to bring artistically significant scripts and professional production values to Omaha and the surrounding region, BLUEBARN is known for high-quality entertainment and the fearless pursuit of stories that challenge both theatre artists and patrons.

Family Warfare Provides Strange Synergy of Heart and Humor

A long standing grudge between cousins Daphna and Liam boils over into warfare over who gets the chai necklace owned by their late grandfather.  They violently and cruelly argue about what is most important:  faith, culture, or self.  This is the plot of Bad Jews currently playing at the Blue Barn Theatre.

Do not let the title of the play trick you into thinking the play is anti-Semitic.  The bad Jews in question are just bad because one is a hypocrite, the other is an atheist, and neither are likable people.

Susan Clement-Toberer’s direction is outstanding in this dramatic comedy.  Not only has she molded some sharp performances, but she has also done a remarkable job finding the beats of this play.  From farcical comedy to tender moments, this show will take you on a thought provoking journey from start to finish.  Throw in a beautiful studio apartment set designed by Martin Scott Marchitto and you will be in for an interesting night of theatre.

Megan Friend is an absolute dynamo as Daphna Feygenbaum.  Deftly merging comedy and drama, Ms Friend knows how to be funny, yet keep the comedy utterly grounded in reality.  At the same time, she was capable of some powerful dramatic moments.  Ms Friend’s Daphna is little more than a mouth with hair.  She is unbelievably animated and talks incessantly about everything, anything, and nothing.  Daphna also has a personality so obnoxious that you’ll want to scream, “Shut up!!” five minutes after she starts talking.

But Daphna’s mouth is also a deadly weapon.  Her barbed tongue easily tosses verbal knives and she knows how to prey upon people’s weaknesses such as when she cons Liam’s girlfriend, Melody, into singing a song to prove her lack of talent.  Ms Friend’s Daphna seems to pride herself on her Jewish heritage, but that pride is akin to the Pharisees of the New Testament.  It holds no meaning for her other than the chance to prove her moral superiority by being holier than thou.  And this holier than thou attitude is why she thinks she deserves the chai necklace.

Jonathan Purcell portrays Liam Feygenbaum.  Having missed his grandfather’s funeral due to being on a vacation with his girlfriend, Purcell’s Liam returns dreading the fight that he knows is about to erupt when he learns that Daphna wants the chai necklace that he already possesses.  Purcell’s Liam is an extremely high strung person.  He dislikes Daphna with a passion with much of that dislike coming from the fact that he and Daphna are simply two sides of the same coin.  Not only do they use similar phrases, but his mouth is just as potent as hers when it comes to verbal barbs.  And his militant atheism serves as a counterpoint to Daphna’s militant “faith”.

I thought that Mr. Purcell’s performance somewhat missed the mark.  At one point, Daphna describes Liam as being smart and smug, but I never saw these attributes come through in Purcell’s interpretation.  He was more high strung and shrill.  Purcell also seemed to have some difficulty fusing the comedic and dramatic elements of his character.  A prime example of this being a rant that Liam goes on after Daphna leaves the room to brush her hair.  The words are incredibly mean-spirited, but Purcell’s interpretation is farcically hilarious.  With a touch of dramatic edge, the words could have dug the knife into Daphna a bit more deeply and demonstrated Liam’s smugness.  Without that fusion, Liam came off a bit whiney.

Jon Daniel Roberson gives a stunningly underplayed performance as Liam’s younger brother, Jonah.  Roberson’s Jonah is the voice of reason between his feuding family members.  He has a quiet strength about him as he takes the occasional shot from both his brother and cousin, but, with true courage, chooses not to respond.  He tries not to get involved in the battle as he agrees with both sides in certain aspects of their arguments.  In a stunning final moment, Roberson’s Jonah also proves that he is the good Jew in this story.  The only flaw in Roberson’s performance is that he needs to be louder.  It was difficult hearing him for a good portion of the play.

Sydney Readman comes off a little flat as Liam’s girlfriend, Melody.  Some of her line readings sounded memorized and her character seemed a bit one dimensional for the most part.  However, her utter mangling of a song in an attempt to cheer up Daphna was one of the highlights of the show.  Ms Readman also does a nice bit of character work at the end of the show after she gets involved in the climax of the chai necklace argument and reveals her own true colors.

Ultimately, the play’s compelling story, flawless direction, and fairly solid acting makes for a fine night of theatre.  Daphna’s hypocrisy and Liam’s smugness show how faith or lack of it can be used to make people feel morally superior.  But one simple act from Jonah will demonstrate what it means to be truly faithful.

Bad Jews plays at the Blue Barn Theatre through March 14.  Showtimes are Thurs-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 6pm.  Shows on Feb 28 and Mar 7 are sold out.  Bad Jews contains some very strong language and a scene of violence.  It is not recommended for children.  Tickets are $30 for adults and $25 for students, seniors (65+), TAG members, and groups of ten or more.  For reservations, call 402-345-1575.  The Blue Barn Theatre is located at 614 S 11th St in Omaha, NE.

BLUEBARN Theatre Announces Regional Premiere of BAD JEWS by Joshua Elias Harmon

BLUEBARN Theatre Announces Regional Premiere of BAD JEWS by Joshua Elias Harmon

The BLUEBARN Theatre continues Season 26 with the regional premiere of the razor-sharp comedy, Bad Jews. The play opens Thursday, February 19th and runs through Saturday, March 14th,2015. BLUEBARN Producing Artistic Director Susan Clement-Toberer directs, with scenic design by Martin Scott Marchitto, lighting design by Carol Wisner, costume design by Wesley Pourier, sound design by Craig Marsh, and properties design by Amy Reiner.

Shows run Thursday-Saturday at 7:30 p.m., Sunday March 1st and 8th at 6 p.m. Single tickets for Bad Jews are $30 for adults; and $25 for students, seniors 65+, TAG members, and groups of 10 or more.

Thursday, March 12 is a Young Professional night. Tickets for YPs are $25.

Bad Jews is generously sponsored by Anonymous, Jannette J. Davis, Dr. Kerry Dobson and Bruce Reneaud, and Rich and Fran Juro.

About BAD JEWS

Described as a comedy about the holy and the holier-than-thou, Bad Jews is the story of Daphna Feygenbaum, a “Real Jew” with an Israeli boyfriend she met on a Birthright tour. When Daphna’s cousin Liam brings home his shiksa girlfriend Melody and declares ownership of their grandfather’s Chai necklace, a vicious and hilarious brawl over family, faith, and legacy ensues. Bad Jews makes it regional premiere at the BLUEBARN Theatre.

About the stars of BAD JEWS

Bad Jews showcases the talents of 4 young bright stars of the Omaha theatre community. Jonathan Purcell (“Liam”) returns to the stage after opening our season in David Mamet’s gritty American Buffalo. Rounding out the cast are 3 newcomers making their BLUEBARN debut: Megan Friend as “Daphna”, Jon Roberson as “Jonah”, and Sydney Readman as “Melody.”

About The BLUEBARN Theatre

The BLUEBARN Theatre has been bringing professionally-produced plays to area audiences since 1989. Since its inception, BLUEBARN has produced over 100 plays and has established itself as Omaha’s professional contemporary theatre company. Striving to bring artistically significant scripts and professional production values to Omaha and the surrounding region, BLUEBARN is known for high-quality entertainment and the fearless pursuit of stories that challenge both theatre artists and patrons.

A Season of Change, Part II: Lessons Learned

If I were to retire from theatre today, I could look back on my career with a certain degree of satisfaction.  Not only do I have nearly 30 shows to my credit, but I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some of the best directors in the city, have worked in every major theatre in the city, have been a part of shows that have been listed as Omaha’s finest, enjoyed some great roles, and have even garnered some critical praise from the public and my theatre brethren.

And no, for those who may be wondering, I’m not planning on hanging things up just yet.  I’m still very much a work in progress and I still marvel at just how much my thinking has changed over the past few years.  For the longest time, I felt like I had something to prove each and every time I auditioned.  And then I finally proved it to myself, which is what I was really trying to do the whole time.  Now I just have something to show and let the chips fall where they may after that.  A big part of showing that something is to not be afraid to dive off the cliff.  That’s the lesson I recently learned.

In part I, I mentioned that I was prepping for an audition for one of my big 3 shows.  Then something came along the way that interrupted that preparation.  I read the script for Bad Jews which will be performed at the Blue Barn this spring and I found it to be one of the strongest scripts that I had read in quite a while.  I really wanted to read for this show, even though I was a good decade older than the oldest character in the show.  That hurdle was actually the least of my problems as I was also going to be out of town for both days of the audition.  What to do?  What to do?

I ended up talking the matter over with Randall Stevens, the Blue Barn’s new associate artistic director, and he allowed me the opportunity to come in and read early.  I saw this as a very positive sign so I prepared diligently.  I was also lucky enough to be able to work with Kaitlyn McClincy and Noah Diaz at my read which gave me some strong performers to play with.

My reads were OK.  I know they could have been better.  One telling direction that Randall gave to Kaitlyn and myself was to be flinging knives at each other as we argued.  Ten minutes after I left the audition, I knew what I should have done.  That’s why I know the reads could have been better.  If you audition right, you leave the audition with the feeling that you could have done no better.  Whether you get cast or not is irrelevant, it’s simply the knowledge that you left everything on stage.  And I did not do that.

Recently, Susan Clement posted a wonderful quotation from John Cleese that said, “Nothing will stop you from being creative so effectively as the fear of making a mistake.”  That’s exactly what happened to me.  Not only did this happen at this audition, but it also happened in my previous audition, detailed in Part I.  I went out to try to prove something instead of trying to show something.  Because of that, I held back because I didn’t want to muck up my chances.  I compare it to running towards the end of a cliff and, instead of diving off to see if I’d soar or crash, I put the brakes on at the very edge of the cliff and said, “Lovely view”.

As I thought of that metaphor, I began to reflect on my past work and auditions.  I realized that my absolute best work came when I went out and just did it.  When I went out and tried to prove a point, that’s when I’d usually trip and fall.  Mind you, going out and just doing it didn’t mean I always got cast or even the role I wanted.  But it did mean I always left the theatre feeling satisfied and that’s the feeling I plan to have from here on out.

I’ve also got to be honest and admit that I might not have been cast in Bad Jews even if my audition had been of a Tony Award winning caliber.  I had my photo taken not too long after the audition and, son of a gun, my hair is really silver.  If I’d been directing and saw me audition, I would have thought I looked too old for the part from the start.  So I’ve also got to keep those little realities in my mind when selecting roles from here on out.

So now I’m back on track to audition for one of my big 3.  I’ve learned the lesson to always dive off the cliff and I’ve also learned to be aware of my look.  The latter will play a big role in that audition as I may have to admit that the role I really want may now be past my age range.  I’ll still keep the hope that there’s a chance I can land it, but I’m also preparing for an equally good character that may now be within my age range.

Until the next time. . .